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Jun 23, 2010

NT use of the OT - Part IV (Should we employ the hermeneutical method of the NT? Yes. [Part 2 - G. K. Beale])

2.         The Apostles’ hermeneutic was not only divinely inspired, it should function as a hermeneutical paradigm to be employed by subsequent interpreters. The other school claims that the hermeneutical method of the apostles is both divinely inspired and authoritatively paradigmatic for all subsequent interpreters. This position argues that Jesus taught his disciples how to interpret and apply the Old Testament while he was on earth (Luke 24:25-27; 44-49). The apostles’ subsequent interpretations and applications, therefore, were simply extensions of the principles taught to them by our Lord. This view has Patristic, Medieval, Reformation, Post-Reformation, and current adherents.

a.      Dennis E. Johnson: see previous post

b.      G. K. Beale: Beale is another advocate of this view. As Johnson above, Beale not only states his position, he seeks to answer the all-important question of what exactly was behind the exegetical conclusions of the New Testament use of the Old.[1] In other words, he seeks to interpret their interpretive method. Thomas does the same by claiming that their method was forced upon them due to the rejection of the Messiah by the first century Jews. But Thomas fails to provide an exegetical basis for the claim that the rejection of the Messiah necessitates a new, unique hermeneutic by Jesus and the Apostles. Beale’s approach, like Johnson’s, seeks answers from wider biblical patterns and interpretive tendencies built into the fabric of Scripture – Old and New Testament. Beale lists five distinctive presuppositions of the apostles’ exegetical method:

  1. the assumption of corporate solidarity or representation.
  2. that Christ is viewed as representing the true Israel of the Old Testament and true Israel, the church, in the New Testament;
  3. that history is unified by a wise and sovereign plan so that the earlier parts are designed to correspond and point to the latter parts (cf. Matt. 11:13-14);
  4. that the age of eschatological fulfillment has come in Christ;
  5. as a consequence of (3) and (4), the fifth presupposition affirms that the latter parts of biblical history function as the broader context to interpret earlier parts because they all have the same, ultimate divine author who inspires the various human authors, and one deduction from this premise is that Christ as the centre of history is the key to interpreting the earlier portions of the Old Testament and its promises.[2]

Beale sees the New Testament using the Old through this grid. His approach is basically the same as Johnson’s. The New Testament does not ignore the context of Old Testament passages. It utilizes principles embedded in Scripture itself and views latter parts of revelation as fulfillments or anti-types of former parts.

In Beale’s conclusion, he says, “…in the case of the New Testament’s method of interpreting the Old Testament the burden of proof rests upon those attempting to deny its normativity.”[3]


[1] G. K. Beale, “Did Jesus and His Followers Preach the Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? An Examination of the Presuppositions of Jesus’ and the Apostles’  Exegetical Method” in G. K. Beale, editor, The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?: Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Co., 1994), 387-404.

[2] Beale, “Did Jesus and His Followers Preach the Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?,” 398.

[3] Beale, “Did Jesus and His Followers Preach the Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?,” 404.

Category: Hermeneutics

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